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8 Insurance Claims that Increase in the Fall

As the seasons change, so do the types of claims adjusters see. Falling leaves create a skidding hazard for unwary drivers. Running deer and other wildlife rarely bother to look both ways before they cross a road. And drivers in a hurry may decide to rush off before their windshields and rear windows are fully defrosted, providing a partially obstructed view of anyone else on the road.

Here are 8 claims that increase during the fall and early winter:

Animal collisions

Deer are no longer confined just to country areas. As development spreads into their natural habitats, these animals can be found in highly populated areas, especially as food becomes scarcer. Hitting a large animal can be just as dangerous as hitting another car, so always wear a seatbelt. Animals tend to be more active at dawn and dusk, so watch for deer, moose, raccoons, foxes and coyotes. Most wildlife-related accidents tend to occur between October and December.

Rear-end collisions

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), there are approximately 1.7 million rear-end collisions in the U.S. each year. Most of these types of claims occur during the fourth quarter and 87% of them are caused by drivers who aren’t paying attention. It’s important to put down the phone, stop adjusting the radio, and back up slowly, checking mirrors and windows multiple times for oncoming cars.

If you’re following a car, leave at least three seconds of time between you and the car in front of you if going 45 mph. If you’re going faster, that distance grows to 6 seconds or roughly one car length for every 10 mph of speed.

Parking lot claims

With the holidays only two months away, shoppers are flocking to malls and shopping centers in greater numbers. This means more drivers and an increase in parking lot-related claims. Damage from shopping carts, car thefts and tight parking spaces are just a few of the hazards. 25% of parking lot-related claims occur between October and December.

To lower the odds of a damage claim:

  • Don’t park near cart returns. It reduces the chances of an errant cart drifting into your vehicle.
  • Park further away from cars. Tight spaces can increase the chances of being hit by a car door or another vehicle.
  • Park in well-lit areas and be aware of who is nearby when walking to a vehicle or pulling out of a parking space.

Snow and ice

34% of all skidding and snow claims occur between October and December. Before cold weather hits, check the tread on tires and make sure they are properly inflated. Decrease speeds on wet, icy or leaf-covered roads.

During winter months, keep the gas tank at least half full since getting stuck in snow traffic can burn fuel quickly. Also check the battery, windshield wipers, anti-freeze and wiper fluid levels. Consider leaving a shovel, blanket and some non-perishable snacks in the car in case of a breakdown.

Auto thefts

Approximately 25% of the year’s auto theft claims occur during the fourth quarter. Cars full of gifts and other items can be tempting to thieves. Taking some preventative actions can reduce the chances that you’ll be the victim of a theft.

  • Don’t leave packages, briefcases or electronics visible in the vehicle. Items like a GPS that adhere to the windshield should be removed and the ring from the suction cup wiped away.
  • Take photos of high value items when you purchase them and keep your receipts to prove ownership.
  • Don’t be afraid to have mall security walk you to your car.
  • Make sure doors are locked and windows are closed when you leave the vehicle.

Home thefts

Increased fall claims aren’t limited to just automobiles. While home robberies increase about 7% in the summer, there is an even bigger increase when the weather turns cooler. That number jumps to 25% in the latter part of the year.

Smart homeowners keep lights on a timer and use motion detectors for outdoor lights. Today’s home apps let owners monitor remotely to see who is coming and going. Valuables should be stored in either a fireproof safe or a safety deposit box.

Fire and smoke

Just like summer means more grill-related fires, in the fall more time is spent indoors and fireplaces, woodstoves and candles become the culprits. According to Ready.gov, more than 2,500 people lose their lives in house fires each year, and another 12,600 are injured. Property losses from these fires total more than $7.3 billion annually, and many homeowners fail to understand that the time from a small flame to a home being fully-engulfed can be mere seconds.

Smoke and radiating heat from a fire also pose significant dangers. Smoke-related claims can account for nearly 30% of homeowners claims during the fall and winter months.

To reduce the likelihood of fire:

  • Inspect chimneys annually and clean as needed. How frequently a chimney needs to be cleaned depends on how often it is used.
  • Open the flue before starting a fire.
  • Don’t leave candles lit in unoccupied rooms. In addition, make sure pets can’t knock them over and keep them away from curtains and clothing.
  • Don’t leave pots or pans cooking unattended on the stove.
  • Don’t smoke if drowsy, cigarettes can fall into furniture cushions and smolder before igniting.
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets with appliances.

Water damage and freezing claims

Freezing pipes and water damage can account for 20% of claims in the fourth quarter. Burst pipes, dishwashers, water heaters, ice makers, water supply lines and toilet valves are frequent sources of water damage. Turning the main water valve off when leaving a home for several days can reduce the risk.

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com

708.597.5900 x134 

 

Source: https://www.propertycasualty360.com/



POSTED SEPTEMBER 05, 2018 8:44 PM
How To Be a Good Landlord

Many people are getting into the rental housing market as an investment, hoping to make more money in rent than they owe on their properties.

There are nearly 44 million renter-occupied homes throughout the United States, and they account for about 37% of the housing market, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Yet, while collecting checks and watching your investment grow sounds glamorous, a rental property can be a lot of work.

What does it take to be a successful landlord? Below is some advice for landlords to help forge good relationships with their tenants.

Keep the property in great condition

It’s cheaper to keep tenants than to lose them, so it’s important to maintain a good relationship. Keep the property in good shape with fresh paint and carpeting, stay up-to-date on repairs and lawn maintenance, handle noise complaints and respect your tenants’ privacy. If your property has a feature that requires specialized maintenance, such as a pool, have a trusted company perform it instead of leaving it up to your renters. This keeps your asset in good condition and is easier on both you and your tenants.

Giving tenants options can also help you build a positive relationship with them. For example, you might consider offering a rent discount each month if your tenants agree to maintain the home’s landscaping themselves during rent negotiations.

Maintain appropriate boundaries

Be aware of your state’s landlord-tenant laws, too, to ensure your tenants get the privacy they’re entitled to. In many areas, you’re required to give 24 hours’ or two days’ notice to enter the occupied rental property, except in case of an emergency. Give this type of notice in writing and verify with your tenants verbally to ensure there aren’t any surprises.

Provide thoughtful extras

Keeping tenants happy can involve providing them with some thoughtful extras that make them feel welcome in the home and help convey the idea that you’re a fair person who’s grateful to have them renting your property.

For example, when they first move in, give them a packet of items that make it easier for them to make rent payments. Give them deposit slips, address labels and envelopes that they can use to transfer the funds directly or mail you their checks. Or, set up an online payment portal that lets them pay securely at the click of a button. You might also consider offering an incentive if they decide to renew their lease, such as a free house cleaning from an outside company. This also maintains the home, making it a little easier to clean when the tenants do eventually move out.

Set a fair price

Compare your rental home to others in the area to create a fair price for rent. Set a monthly date for rent payments and include a late payment policy. Many landlords give tenants a five-day grace period to deliver the rent. After that, they may apply penalties for every day the rent is late.

Expect unexpected repairs

As a landlord, you’ll be responsible for repairs that can cut into your profits. Expect to allocate 10% of your rental income for repairs.

Aside from money, repairs may also be required at inconvenient times. Expect to handle your share of 3 a.m. phone calls about issues such as leaking pipes, lack of heat or storm damage. Field these calls patiently and efficiently, and let your tenants know that you’ll be available to help whenever you’re needed.

Encourage tenants to get renters insurance

Some tenants believe their belongings are covered under the landlord’s insurance policy, but that’s not the case. For example, if a fire damages the belongings inside, the tenants aren’t covered unless they have their own renters insurance policy. Many companies offers affordable, comprehensive renters insurance to assist your tenants.

With these landlord tips, you’ll know what to expect, and you’ll be able to form respectful relationships with your tenants for years to come.

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com

708.597.5900 x134 

 



POSTED SEPTEMBER 05, 2018 8:39 PM
Understanding the Insurance Claims Payment Process

How are you paid? Who gets the check? Do you need to replace items immediately?

After a disaster, you want to get back to normal as soon as possible and we want that for you too! You may get multiple checks from your insurer as you make temporary repairs, permanent repairs and replace damaged belongings. Here's what you need to know about claims payments.

The initial payment isn't final

In most instances, an adjuster will inspect the damage to your home and offer you a certain sum of money for repairs, based on the terms and limits of your homeowners policy. The first check you get from your insurance company is often an advance against the total settlement amount, not the final payment.

If you're offered an on-the-spot settlement, you can accept the check right away. Later, if you find other damage, you can reopen the claim and file for an additional amount. Most policies require claims to be filed within one year from the date of disaster. 

You may receive multiple checks

When both the structure of your home and your personal belongings are damaged, you generally receive two separate checks from your insurance company, one for each category of damage. If your home is uninhabitable, you'll also receive a check for the additional living expenses (ALE) you incur if you can’t live in your home while it is being repaired. If you have flood insurance and experienced flood damage, that means a separate check as well.

Your lender or management company might have control over your payment

If you have a mortgage on your house, the check for repairs will generally be made out to both you and the mortgage lender. As a condition of granting a mortgage, lenders usually require that they are named in the homeowners policy and that they are a party to any insurance payments related to the structure. Similarly, if you live in a coop or condominium, your management company may have required that the building's financial entity be named as a co-insured.

This is so the lender (and/or, in the case of a coop or condo, the overall building), who has a financial interest in your property, can ensure that the necessary repairs are made.

When a financial backer is a co-insured, they will have to endorse the claims payment check before you can cash it.

Depending on the circumstances, lenders may also put the money in an escrow account and pay for the repairs as the work is completed. Show the mortgage lender your contractor's bid and let the lender know how much the contractor wants upfront to start the job. Your mortgage company may want to inspect the finished job before releasing the funds for payment to the contractor.

If your home has been destroyed, the amount of the settlement and who gets it is driven by your policy type, its specific limits and the terms of your mortgage. For example, part of the insurance proceeds may be used to pay off the balance due on the mortgage. And, how the remaining proceeds are spent depend on your own decisions, such as if you want to rebuild on the same lot, in a different location or not rebuild at all. These decisions are also driven by state law.  

Your insurance company may pay your contractor directly

Some contractors may ask you to sign a "direction to pay" form that allows your insurance company to pay the firm directly. This form is a legal document, so you should read it carefully to be sure you are not also assigning your entire claim over to the contractor. When in doubt, call us before you sign. Assigning your entire insurance claim to a third party takes you out of the process and gives control of your claim to the contractor.

When work is completed to restore your property, make certain the job has been completed to your satisfaction before you let your insurer make the final payment to the contractor.

Your ALE check should be made out to you

Your check for additional living expenses (ALE) has nothing to do with repairs to your home. So, ensure that this check is made out to you alone and not your lender. The ALE check covers your expenses for hotels, car rental, meals out and other expenses you may incur while your home is being fixed.

Your personal belongings will be calculated on cash value, first

You'll have to submit a list of your damaged belongings to your insurance company (having a home inventory will make this a lot easier). Even if you have a replacement value policy, the first check you receive from your insurer will be based on the cash value of the items, which is the depreciated amount based on the age of the item. Why do insurance companies do this? It is to match the remaining claim payment to the exact replacement cost. If you decide not to replace an item, you’ll be paid the actual cash value (depreciated) amount for it.

To get replacement value for your items, you must actually replace them

To get fully reimbursed for damaged items, most insurance companies will require you to purchase replacements. Your company will ask for copies of receipts as proof of purchase, then pay the difference between the cash value you initially received and the full cost of the replacement with an item of similar size and quality. You'll generally have several months from the date of the cash value payment to purchase replacements; consult with us regarding the timeframe.  

In the case of a total loss, where the entire house and its contents are damaged beyond repair, insurers generally pay the policy limits, according to the laws in your state. That means you can receive a check for what the home and contents were insured for at the time of the disaster.

Please call with questions. 

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com

708.597.5900 x134 



POSTED SEPTEMBER 05, 2018 5:00 AM
5 Essential Tips on Making Your Car Last

Just because you’ve had your car for quite a few years and racked up 100,000 or more miles doesn’t mean it’s time to send the car to the junkyard. The fact is, if you treat your car like your baby it may still be thriving at 200,000 and 300,000 miles or even longer. Here are 5 tips to help keep your car running longer.

1. Use only the best

To extend the life of your engine, when you have your oil changed use a high-grade filter and pay a bit more for high-quality synthetic oil. In bitter cold weather, this maintains the oil’s fluidity and is also less likely to break down when the engine gets hot. While this may increase the cost of an oil change, ultimately it may help your engine to last longer. Likewise, a good filter can eliminate any unwanted particles from the oil. First double-check to make sure that these products are appropriate for your car.

2. Keep an eye on fluids

While your owner’s manual may tell you it’s not necessary to check your power steering, brake fluids and coolant for years, it’s wise to check these every 20,000 miles. If you’re doing this yourself, consider the consistency of the fluids. Any of these that feel gritty or smell burnt, point to a need for a fluid change.

Likewise, if your orange coolant is now dark red, a fluid change is warranted. Or if it has a cloudy appearance, it may mean your engine needs to be serviced. In addition, don’t hesitate to change transmission fluid every 35,000 miles or so, replacing this with high-quality synthetic transmission fluid that offers better protection if the transmission gets hot and that lasts longer. If you try to stretch well beyond the manufacturers’ recommendations, you may find yourself with an expensive repair bill to rebuild the transmission.

3. Coddle your car from the start

If your car has been parked overnight or more, don’t drive off immediately. During the period it has been sitting the oil has settled into the oil pan, leaving the moving parts of the engine without lubrication. If you wait 30 seconds or so and allow your car to warm up without revving your engine, this should be enough to allow the oil pump to work its magic.

4. Don’t forget about hygiene

Washing and waxing a car regularly can extend its life. This is particularly true during the winter and after snowstorms when road salt can break down a car body, causing rust. Road salt can even affect brakes. Once there is a thaw, drive your car in for an underbody wash to limit the damage caused by road salt. Basic winter cleanings wash away harmful road spray and debris. A good waxing in the fall and midwinter can create a barrier against salt. Use a wax that functions effectively at lower temperatures. Wax jobs in warmer seasons can also protect a car against sand and dirt that are sometimes no less harmful than salt.

5. Play it cool

You don’t need to accelerate from zero to 60 in record time. And you don’t have to be the kind of driver who feels compelled to stomp on the brakes at every light or try to throw the car into reverse before it’s fully stopped. All that constant stress can age your car and may take it off the road long before its time.

Ultimately, if you take the time to keep up the maintenance and treat your car right, you may find yourself able to watch the odometer spin several hundred thousand miles more than you might have thought possible.

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com

708.597.5900 x134 



POSTED SEPTEMBER 05, 2018 5:00 AM
Motor Vehicle Accidents in Workers Compensation

Today’s cutting-edge technology allows cars to steer themselves, maintain safe following distances, brake automatically, and warn drivers of nearby vehicles. Yet, despite these safety improvements, motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) in the United States have generally been on the rise over the last several years.

This troubling trend is also impacting workers compensation (WC). Though there has been an overall decline in WC claims, the frequency of claims for MVAs has increased in recent years. These accidents can be very severe and are responsible for a significant portion of fatal WC claims.

So, what might explain this dangerous trend? A striking similarity in the growth and popularity of cell phone, and particularly smartphone, use over the same time period suggests that distracted driving may be a factor.

This NCCI Research Brief, “Motor Vehicle Accidents in Workers Compensation,” takes a deeper look at these issues and examines recent trends in the frequency and severity of MVA lost-time claims for all NCCI states combined. The study also looks at the classes most involved in this trend and factors affecting MVA frequency. 

Exhibit 1

Among the major findings in the report:

  • The frequency of claims from MVAs increased, while the frequency of all claims decreased from 2011 to 2016. Workers compensation has experienced a long-term decline in overall claim frequency, thanks to automation, robotics, and continued advances in workplace safety. However, for WC MVA claims, the story is quite different, with frequency declining for many years and then suddenly turning upward. From 2000 to 2011, both overall claims and MVA claims were decreasing, but a noticeable divergence occurred in 2011. From 2011 to 2016, the frequency of all claims declined by 17.6%, while the frequency of MVA claims increased by 5.0%.
  • MVA frequency increases from 2011 to 2016 occurred in the classes where MVAs are most common. As expected, certain classifications, which are predominantly based on the use of motor vehicles, such as truckers, taxi drivers, and salespersons, generate the majority of MVA claims.
  • The rapid expansion of smartphone ownership since 2011 may have been a factor in the rise in MVA frequency. A wide variety of external factors may contribute to MVAs. However, it is striking how the increasing popularity and use of smartphones coincides with this growing trend of MVAs. By the end of 2010, approximately 27% of all cell phones were smartphones. But by the end of 2016, that figure had tripled to 81%. According to a publication by the National Safety Council, a minimum of 27% of crashes involve drivers talking and texting on cell phones. However, the report also states that “there is strong evidence to support that underreporting of driver cell phone use in crashes is resulting in a substantial underestimation of the magnitude of the public safety threat.”
  • MVA claims cost 80% to 100% more than the average claim because they involve severe injuries (e.g., head, neck, multiple injuries). MVA claims tend to represent a higher share of the costliest claims. Over a five-year period, MVA claims accounted for 28% of claims above $500,000, versus just 5% of all claims.
  • Over the last five years, more than 40% of fatal WC claims involved an MVA. An MVA claim is 12 times more likely to result in a fatality than a non-MVA claim.

So what steps are being taken to address the rising number of MVAs occurring in the United States? Several efforts are already under way to discourage distracted driving:

  1. Cell phone blocking through smartphone apps that prohibit calls or texts while a vehicle is in motion
  2. Several states have implemented bans on cell phone use and/or text messaging
  3. Self-driving autonomous vehicles are already being tested in various cities and states across the country

Will these efforts to reduce distracted driving be successful? What other solutions might the future hold? NCCI will continue to closely monitor trends in MVAs and share our findings.

View the complete research brief, "Motor Vehicle Accidents in Workers Compensation (PDF)"

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com

708.597.5900 x134 



POSTED AUGUST 24, 2018 6:52 PM
What is errors and omissions insurance?


As you may know, business liability insurance covers losses related to bodily injury, property damage or advertising injury. But what happens, and who pays, when a printer neglects to catch a typographic error on a large order of engraved wedding invitations? Or when a computer consultant gives bad advice causing financial harm.

Issues like these can be resolved with the purchase of errors and omissions (E&O) insurance. Errors and omissions insurance is a kind of specialized liability protection against losses not covered by traditional liability insurance. It protects you and your business from claims if a client sues for negligent acts, errors or omissions committed during business activities that result in a financial loss for the client.

Costly mistakes can happen – even to people with the best training and years of experience.  It’s human nature. That’s why E&O insurance is so important.

Errors and omissions insurance definition: E&O insurance generally protects service businesses from errors and/or omissions made by a business owner, employee working on behalf of the company. Once upon a time, there was a distinction between errors and omissions insurance and professional liability insurance. It used to be that doctors and lawyers bought professional liability insurance, while E&O insurance was reserved for semi-professional occupations. Today, the two coverages are generally synonymous.

Who needs E&O insurance? You need errors and omissions insurance if you’re in the business of providing a service to clients for a fee, including printers and insurance professionals, lawyers, accountants and IT consultants.

Errors and omissions insurance policies usually cover the business owner, both salaried and hourly employees, and subcontractors working on behalf of the business.

E&O insurance is typically customized to meet specific needs of a business or industry. For example, a printer has different risks than an attorney does in a standard business day. Both have the need for liability insurance, yet each needs a completely different type of coverage.

What type of E and O insurance should I buy? Errors and omissions insurance policies vary from company to company, and are written to reflect inherent risks and common exposures particular to different types of businesses.

Some events resulting in a loss for a client may have occurred several years in the past, and the first time the mistake is apparent is when a court summons arrives in the mail. That’s when the retroactive date on the policy is very important. The farther back the retroactive date of the policy, the more coverage and protection it offers.

Even if claims are found to be unwarranted, legal fees and other related expenses can quickly eat up a company’s cash reserves in no time, causing a financial hardship. Most errors and omissions insurance policies cover judgments, attorney fees, court costs and settlements up to the limits of the policy.

If you own a business which offers services in exchange for fees, you need a reliable E&O policy.

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com

708.597.5900 x134 



POSTED AUGUST 16, 2018 6:00 PM
This is why a Clear Desk Policy is Smart for Every Business

We all have that coworker (or maybe we ARE that coworker) with the messy desk. Stacks of papers, post-it notes, pens, pencils, note tablets, folders, daily calendars, and any number of objects are strewn across the entire surface of the desk. This isn’t necessarily bad; some people work better with this seemingly haphazard style of organization.

While it may sound like a clear desk policy is an attempt to get this coworker to finally straighten up, it’s much more than that. In fact, a clear desk policy is not about aesthetics as much as it is about security. And in an age where information leaks can ruin a business, data security is something every employee should take seriously.

What is a clear desk policy and why is it important?

Also known as a clean desk policy, a clear desk policy is almost exactly what it sounds like: it directs how a workspace should look whenever it is not occupied by an employee. For some companies, this type of policy is in effect throughout the workday to convey a sense of professionalism and modernity to visitors and staff alike. At its core, though, a clear desk policy is ultimately about protecting information.

At any given time, someone could have sensitive information either written on paper or open on a computer. Anything from proprietary information to personally identifying information to financial data is at risk if it isn’t handled properly. Protecting this information is already part of the culture in some industries, such as those that require compliance with FACTA or HIPAA regulations.

Even if your business isn’t in the financial or medical industry, there are still plenty of reasons to consider a clear desk policy. For instance, retail shops may have credit card information from phone orders. A restaurant could have employment applications with personally identifying information on them. Graphic designers may have confidential client information written in a notebook. These are all opportunities for information theft, no matter how accidental the oversight is.

In fact, while we often think of information theft as the result of digital security breaches, that’s not always true. Recent research from the University of Texas at Austin found that about half of identity theft incidents are the result of “analog” sources, such as paper documents. They also discovered that 34% of those cases were inside jobs, meaning an employee or family member was responsible for the theft. 

In other words, of the estimated 60 million Americans who have been victims of identity theft, it’s likely that 30 million of those cases were non-digital thefts. And that’s just identity theft; those numbers don’t include other important business information like client lists, trade secrets, or financial information.

Writing a clear desk policy

Like any company policy, if it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist. Whether you have one employee or one thousand employees, written policies help everyone comply with expectations. There isn’t as much room for ambiguity, plus a written policy forces you to think through what your goal is, be that going digital and using less paper, information security, creating a particular customer/client experience, or some combination thereof.

It’s important to customize your policy to fit your situation, but at a minimum, be sure to include these points in your policy:

  • Don’t leave your desk with unattended information. File or lock papers in a locked drawer. Lock and password protect computers.
  • Use electronic documents whenever possible. 
  • Always file and lock sensitive information immediately after use.
  • Destroy documents and hard drives you no longer need. 
  • Always remove documents from meeting rooms, including erasing any information on white boards or flip charts. 
  • Remove any confidential information from your desk whenever you aren’t using it. 

As a business owner or manager, instituting a clear desk policy only works if you make it possible for your employees to comply.

  • Make sure your team has locking desk drawers or locking file cabinets for information.
  • Make it easy to destroy sensitive documents that your employees no longer need.
  • Ensure there is time in the workday to follow through with properly filing and locking documents and computers.

The easier you can make it for your team to follow the policy, the more likely it is that information remains secure.

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com

708.597.5900 x134 

 



POSTED AUGUST 16, 2018 5:00 AM
Business Identity Theft: An Emerging Threat

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Individuals are not the only ones at risk of identity theft. Increasingly, businesses are struggling with criminal use of their identity for tax fraud, credit card and other financial fraud, as well as having their websites and business name trademarks held for ransom.

A recently released report by the National Cybersecurity Society states that criminals are combining stolen data from data breaches with business intelligence to create large tax returns; wire transfers and ransoms which are fueling an underground economy of organized crime.

The IRS reported 4,000 instances of business identity theft cases in 2016. In 2017 that figure soared to 10,000, the largest year-over-year increase on record. Damages were estimated at $268 million in 2016, but curiously declined to $137 million in 2017.

The Insurance Information Institute has facts and statistics on identity theft here.

Give us a call and we can talk about your options on how to protect your business from identity theft.

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com

708.597.5900 x134

 



POSTED AUGUST 16, 2018 5:00 AM
How Smart Lighting Can Make Life Better

Can banishing the blues, sleeping soundly and waking energized be as simple as changing a light bulb? Light affects sleep/wake cycles, body temperature, hunger, physiology and behavior. So aligning lighting with our bodies’ natural circadian rhythms is an important step in improving well-being, productivity and relaxation.

New, smart lighting is helping balance circadian rhythms, augmenting WiFi and acting as hubs for a variety of smart devices.

Smart lighting to help you sleep:

One new smart light bulb is designed specifically for bedrooms, to overcome the problem of light-induced wakefulness. These smart bulbs help resolve that problem by mimicking the sun, transitioning its light from the energizing blue wavelengths of early morning light to the calming light of evening sunsets. This transition prepares the body for sleep, helping trigger the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin in the evening and the release of the stimulating hormone cortisol in the morning.

Another smart bulb in the same family of lights is designed to provide optimal, customizable light throughout the house. Single bulbs or groups of lights can be dimmed or brightened with a tap on your smart phone. That app also supports custom scenes, such as “arrive home” or “watch movie.”

Changing from standard bulbs to smart bulbs is as easy as screwing them into any 60-watt light socket and downloading the relevant app for iOS or Android. A smart hub isn’t needed.

Filtering out blue light:

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 95% of Americans use an electronic device within one hour of trying to sleep. Yet, the blue-lit screens of tablets, smart phones, computer screens and TV contribute to poor sleep.

Luckily, many devices have apps available that automatically turn on at night and filter out blue light to support your body’s natural circadian rhythm. In fact, iPhones have this built in through a feature called “Night Shift”. Utilizing screen filters can make it easier to fall asleep if you use electronic devices before bedtime.

User-tunable LEDs:

Tunable LEDs are another innovation. With tunable smart bulbs, users can change their LEDs’ color temperature to create the ambiance they want based on function or situation. For example, one manufacturer’s white ambiance bulbs imitate the sun, producing a full spectrum of white light that can be adjusted with a wall-mounted dimmer or smart phone app.

Already-set routines tell the bulbs to gradually increase the light level of the room in the morning, to provide gentle evening light and to gradually dim lights until they are off. With tunable smart lights, you also can create a lighting plan based on the color palette of a favorite picture or control the lights while you’re away to ensure your home appears occupied. From a design standpoint, these lights can be grouped to define spaces in open concept floor plans and to adjust ambiance with a click to control rooms, routines or scenes.

Regular LED bulbs also are finally being manufactured with the aesthetics of vintage incandescent bulbs (which are no longer manufactured) and candelabra bulbs, allowing energy efficient, visually pleasing solutions for fixtures with visible light bulbs.

Illumination plus:

Smart lights are doing more than controlling lighting, though. Lighting manufacturers, are developing smart LEDs that that can be used as sensors to function as internet hubs.

Li-Fi technology can even replace WiFi in some areas to deliver Internet connectivity through light bulbs. The LED bulbs become wireless transmitters, downloading and uploading information at a rate of 40Mbps (high speed Internet is considered 25Mbps). Because Li-Fi doesn’t penetrate walls, it is more secure than WiFi, which uses radio signals that can be hacked from some distance.

In 2016, a LiFi innovator introduced an app to allow it to be controlled from a smart phone. This technology has the potential to turn every light into an Internet access point.

These new LEDs are a logical early step toward the much ballyhooed Internet of Things, providing an immediate benefit in the form of more restful sleep and more alert morning and improved ambiance and functionality. And the best part is that most of this functionality is available now at retailers near you. 

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com

708.597.5900 x134 



POSTED JULY 25, 2018 7:08 PM
Nationwide: 3 Ways to Save on Teen Car Insurance

For parents, having a teen driver in the house can be cause for mixed emotions. On the one hand there’s the added freedom of having another driver who can run errands and no longer needs to be driven to school or extracurricular activities.

On the flip side, many parents worry about the extra expense of adding a teenager to the insurance policy, as well as the accompanying expenses of gas and perhaps even an additional car.

Several factors affect how much the cost of insurance increases when a teen driver is added, including geography and gender. Insuring teen male drivers is more expensive than females, and certain areas are simply more expensive than others. While you can’t do much to change those two factors, there are many ways for parents to cut insurance costs. The good news is that, in addition to improving the bottom line, these options could help your teen become a better driver or even become more conscientious about his or her grades.

Here are three things you can do right now to start saving money on your teenager’s auto insurance.

1. Look into a good student discount:

The grades your teen earns can lower the amount of insurance you have to pay. This is something you may have to ask for, so if your student driver is earning a minimum of a B average, contact us. Before you call, make sure you have proof of the student’s academic prowess. It may be in the form of a report card or a form signed by a school administrator to verify those grades. The discount is also valid for homeschooled teens, who will need to provide results from a standardized test (PSAT, SAT, ACT, etc.) and must be in the top 20 percent of the student scores nationwide. Even better news – this discount continues when your driver goes to college and it’s offered up to the age of 24. Click here to learn more about getting a good-student discount.

2. Consider telematics

Telematics are electronics that record and report on a driver’s habits. That information can be used in many ways; it allows insurance companies to reward drivers for good behavior, and it also lets drivers (or their parents) receive feedback on their driving, which can help them make better decisions behind the wheel. Nationwide’s program SmartRide gives drivers an automatic 5 percent break on the teen’s insurance just for signing up, then offers additional discounts – as much as 40 percent – based on a driver’s habits. They provide a device that is easily installed, tracking four factors: hard braking, fast acceleration, miles driven and nighttime miles.

3. Don’t buy new

While most teens dream of a shiny new car to begin driving, it’s not the best financial move. The reason teens cost more to insure is these inexperienced drivers tend to have more accidents, so buying a new car is going to mean higher repair costs if they have a fender bender. Buying an older car that has good safety ratings won’t just mean lower repair costs and lower monthly car payments, it will cost less to insure.

Having the right car insurance is extremely important, even more so for a young driver. Find out how Nationwide can help you save money on teen car insurance while keeping you covered.

Dan Zeiler

dan@zeiler.com

708.597.5900 x134 



POSTED JULY 25, 2018 6:26 PM

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